Australian pentathlete clear to compete at Beijing

Aug. 07, 2008, 12:54 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) Australian pentathlete Angie Darby is on her way to Beijing after the Court of Arbitration for Sport threw out an appeal that questioned her Olympic eligibility.

Greece's pentathlon federation had challenged Darby's qualification and wanted her replaced by Greek competitor Donna Vakalis.

The Greek federation claimed Darby was not eligible because she failed to meet the full requirements of the five-event discipline when she qualified for Beijing by winning the Oceania championship in Tokyo last year. The fourth of the five disciplines - equestrian show jumping - wasn't contested because of an outbreak of equine influenza.

The same argument was successfully used in July by the British federation to have Australia's Alex Parygin, the 1996 Olympic champion, replaced by Briton Nick Woodbridge. The British lawyer who won that case represented the Greek federation.

Vakalis originally appealed to the pentathlon's world governing body, which allowed the Oceania contest to go ahead. It ruled the Greek athlete's claim was made too late, and Vakalis appealed that decision to CAS.

The women's modern pentathlon is scheduled for Aug. 22 at the Olympic Sports Center stadium in Beijing. The one-day event sees athletes accumulate points in pistol shooting, fencing, swimming, show jumping and a final 3,000-meter run.

The Australian Olympic Committee said Thursday that Darby will join the rest of the Australian team in the Olympic village and march in Friday's opening ceremonies.

Fiona de Jong, the Australian Olympic Committee's director of sport had launched a personal crusade to keep Darby on the team, at one point telling British lawyers who instigated the challenge they "had picked a fight with the wrong chick."

"I am so pleased for Angie," De Jong said in a statement Thursday. "It is a feeling of relief and joy that the saga is finally over and Angie can get on and compete."

AOC president John Coates also was pleased with the result.

"Every athlete and federation has the right to appeal the selection process and I am glad that it has been resolved," Coates said. "I'm advised that her training has been excellent throughout the latter stages of this process so hopefully her preparation has not been adversely affected."